Entries in Visual Arts worksheet (1)


Understory exhibition - an educational supplement 

Understory:  a collaborative exhibition by Joan Martin and Lara Mellon 

Tuesday 26th August at 6:00pm until Saturday 13th Sept 12noon

The term Understory (or understorey, underbrush) in forestry and ecology refers to plant life growing beneath the forest canopy without penetrating it to any extent. As a rule forest understories also experience higher humidity than exposed areas.




After reading the above interpretation of the word ‘understory’, come up with your own/another interpretation of the word ”understory”.  

Write down a title of an artwork on this exhibit that best relates to this theme. Explain your choice.




The definition of the word “collaborate” from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary is to: work with another person or group in order to achieve or do something.

Watch the Youtube clip on the Tate gallery channel Unlock Art: Great Double Acts and answer the questions that follow. 







Name one contemporary visual arts partnership mentioned in the Youtube clip “ Unlock Art: Great Double Acts”.

Is collaboration new in Visual arts? Explain your answer.

How does Jeff Koons create collaborative art?

Describe the artwork that Sue Webster & Tim Noble make. 

It is stated in the Youtibe clip that” By engaging with artwork the viewer also becomes part of the art” Explain this statement.







Note to teachers – questions 3-7 are best done prior to the gallery visit, after viewing the Youtube clip. The Youtube clip provides a comprehensive overview of collaborative artists of the past and present. Questions 3-7 may also be left out if you haven’t got easy access to the Internet.

Joan Martin and Lara Mellon have chosen to collaborate because of the support their relationship has brought to the making of this exhibition.

Their collaboration takes various forms:

Their postcards record conversation and demand a response to each other’s work. They also were required to meet on a regular basis to hand-deliver these postcards to one another.  Examine the collection of postcards

Above: Joan Martin, Postcard 44 (Front and back), mixed media, 15x10cm

Above: Lara Mellon, Postcard 45 (Front and back), mixed media, 15x10cm







What date did they start the series of postcards & what date did they finish?

Do you think that it is important that these artists recorded dates on their postcards? Explain your answer.  

Select one PAIR of sequential postcards 

Record the date, describe the visuals on the front of the card & write down the message in EACH card.

Explain how the postcards relate to one another visually or thematically (in terms of subject matter). 








The informal meetings where they swap postcards often turn into more formal lengthy meetings where they discussed ideas, the meaning of works and the general direction and form they want this exhibition to take. These meetings often take place in each other's studios where they got opportunities to view each other's work in progress & make comment on each other's work. 

Above: An excerpt from Joan Martin's Journal

Above: An excerpt from Lara Mellon's Journal


Can you think of any positive effects that meetings like these could have on the development of an artist's work?  



The circle shape occurs quite frequently in this exhibition.

Above: Joan Martin, Accumulation 1 (detail), mixed media, size various.   

Above:  Lara Mellon, Hope Sewn, mixed media, 15cm diameter. 





Find an artwork that is based on a circular shape/contains circles by each artist and compare how they each use the circle in their work. Some things to consider: Is it a frame? Is it a compositional device?

Do you think the circle has symbolic meaning for each of these artists?

Back up your discussion by referring to features of specific artworks.





Joan Martin and Lara Mellon both use mixed media and often use similar materials, techniques and even swap items they have made with the other artist.









List three unusual materials/mediums used by each artist.

Focus on ONE unusual material/medium used by each artist and describe its use in a particular artwork. Write down the name of the artist, the title, medium listed on the label & the size of the work as part of your answer.

Do you think this material has any effect on the artist's message? Explain your answer.

Can you find examples of both artists using the same materials/techniques?  Describe this material/technique and explain how each artist has used it differently.

Despite often using similar materials, techniques and both working within the theme of this exhibition “Understory”, each artist interprets the theme in a different way.Can you work out the general message/concerns of each artist by interpreting the motifs (distinctive subject matter/images used) or the mood of their work? Explain your answer.










The PDF version of this worksheet may be downloaded here.